Abroad

London’s many ethnic communities make it a global hub

The delicious aroma of curry and samosas lingered in the air. Small restaurants and businesses decorated every corner of the street. I stood in the heart of Brick Lane, one of London’s most multi-cultural communities. I gazed into an Indian sweet shop, silently hoping I’d be able to step in and grab a “badam burfi,” a sweet Indian treat made of milk, sugar and spices.

Unlike other places, London was not founded solely on immigrants. It was an established city of traders and individuals from around the world came to trade, start businesses and lead better lives. Over time, these people became an integral part of London’s culture.

According to the East London history website, the Brick Lane was a brewery hub, home to Irish and Jewish populations, and a center for weaving and tailoring. The street owes its name to the materials brick manufacturers used to build their shops in the area.

During the late 20th century, Brick Lane became a popular site for immigrants from Bangladesh, rapidly transforming the street into “Banglatown.” Today, the street is home to a variety of restaurants, curry houses and other local businesses. There are also markets, art and graffiti work and galleries.

Dr. Bogusia Wojciechowska, a lecturer for the intercultural communication course at SU London, views London as the most diverse city in the world, whose vibrant culture shines through its historic sites, museums, performances and festivals.

“Brick Lane, in the heart of the East End of London, is a rich microcosm of this culture, representing generations of native Londoners, refugees and immigrants who made it their home,” Wojciechowska said.

What makes London a more diverse and immigrant-friendly city is its demographics. In New York City, for instance, the population consists of many different ethnicities, but most this population is second generation or older because the city was founded by immigrants. London’s foreign-born population, on the other hand, makes up 41 percent of inner London, according to a briefing by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The same briefing reveals this foreign-born population has nearly doubled since between 1993 and 2015. Because of this, the city is not just ethnically diverse, but also hosts a variety of nationalities and cultures.

As an international student who had to adjust to life in both countries, London has felt more diverse and immigrant-friendly, simply because there are so many nationalities represented. On the bus and the tube, multiple languages are spoken at a time.

London has proven to be more diverse than New York in a variety of ways, starting from its tolerance towards different nationalities, the different languages in the city and the numerous multicultural businesses and trades. What makes its diversity all the more special is the fact that many cultures not traditionally found in London have etched themselves into the city’s culture, enriching it even further.

Saniya More is a sophomore dual major in international relations and broadcast and digital journalism. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached at ssmore@syr.edu.

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